Day 105

August 21st, 2019

Coppermine River

Authors Note: Please pardon the tardiness of this entry. Sometimes it is just simply too wet to get out of the bag and exit the tent in search of a writing utensil.

Today we woke up around 6:00 AM. Later wake up times are a nice luxury to have toward the end of the trip. Mornings are always very cold, and as was the case with this morning, quite damp. On this day in particular, water falling from the sky was a constant. From the time we pushed off around 8:00 AM to the time we made camp around 5:30 PM, it rained. There were maybe 20 minutes total throughout the day when you could not see perfect little circles littering the surface of the water. The sky was gray throughout and mist covered the mountains entirely. Everything started out wet and gradually evolved into utterly soaked. Luckily there was not an abundance of wind.

After about 10 minutes of paddling we stopped at an abandoned cabin that Wiper had told us about. We took some pictures and looked for initials we may recognize carved into the wood. We continued paddling, eventually making our way to Big Bend. The current picked up a bit and the rain began falling harder. There was not a single moment in the morning or the afternoon where the sky held signs of breaking up. One is hard-pressed to think blue skies will ever return after a day like this; the world is enveloped in gray gloom. Sunshine becomes a distant memory, much like dry clothes. Our paddling jackets and dry bottoms have really paid themselves back lately. For a while I was worried we had carried them all this way for nothing. The neck and waist gaskets are not exactly comfortable but the material is truly waterproof and it holds in all body heat. At times I began sweating underneath my dry top and then must either remove my top or throttle back or both, ideally just the former.

We made great time, cruising down the river and arriving at Rocky De Fire around 12:30 PM. Zach, Paul, Axel and I hiked up the cliffs on the left side to take a look at the whitewater. From the high vantage point the set was magnificent, and appeared to be an easy enough shoot. Stay right-middle, don’t go left. From the left shore we could not see all the way to the bottom of the rapid however, so we ferried across, ate a quick lunch then Zach, Paul, Bram and Axel went to scout the entire set. Upon returning, Bram gave James and me the thumbs up explaining the bottom looked fairly simple much like the top. I was much relieved because my feet have become extremely sore recently and the prospect of portaging, especially in the rain, was about as unappealing as you can get.

Paul and Axel remained on the right shore cliffs to capture photos of us shooting the set. Bram and Zach went first, very clean shoot, eddied out a little earlier than planned but spun out of it and continue onto the planned eddy nicely. James and I started back paddling very early into the “V” at the top. The waves were much bigger on the water than they looked from the cliffs. We steadily coasted over the

giant haystacks but the water was taking us where it wanted. The current was pushing us left into an enormous wave train riding along the side of the cliff. With the first monstrous wall of whitewater looming over us we ducked just to the right of it and casually made our way to the eddy without taking in a single drop (not counting the rain.) The shoot seemed simple enough, right-middle, definitely not left. Paul and Axel hiked down then shot too far right, probably because they saw James and I nearly get eaten by waves on the left. Chilling in the eddy was surreal. Gorgeous cliffs on both sides, whitewater zipping by, large deep eddy steadily swirling clockwise. The bottom set was a breeze and it emptied out into a cove almost with a bowl of beautiful autumn mountains all around us. The fall colors are absolutely splendid up here. Oranges, reds, yellows, even some purple all mixing together into a golden brown that accentuates the green pines and stretches for miles. I desperately hope we can get even just 5 minutes of clear sky and sunshine blasting its brilliant illumination onto these autumn ridden slopes. I’ve never imagined such a gorgeous showcase of color brought about by low-lying shrubs and grasses and mosses.

We pulled off after checking 5 potential campsites. We had to find high ground. Everything is drenched to its core – so remarkably wet.

Teriyaki rice burritos in the bug tent for supper with monkey munch for dessert. Under 100 miles from the Arctic Ocean has not really set in that the trip is going to end. I am both ready and not ready. Eager and scared. Excited and Anxious. “I don’t know what to do with my hands.” Ricky Bobby

Rocky Defile


Day 99

August 15, 2019

Point Lake

Today we arose around 5:00 AM, slept in a bit due to the rain, always a great excuse to stay in the bag. An entire battalion of mosquitos awaited us in our vestibules. They swarm in numbers unfathomable, like stars in the night’s sky. One can hear the steady hum of their combined buzzing while getting dressed, like a distant generator. We were told the bugs would be bad this far north, but no warning can properly prepare you for the assault. Without our bug shirts it is likely one or all of us would have gone mad by this point.

Granola with PB and coffee for breakfast. Most of us pour our piping hot coffee into our bowls and make a delicious mix. The PB melts, it adds flavor and give us the hot meal we have been missing since the oatmeal ran out.

We switched back to the original boats today: Paul & Axel, Zach & Bram, myself & James. Spending time in a boat with each member greatly strengthened our bond. Working together with someone in a canoeing capacity is a great way to get to know someone. You find out a lot about the other person as well as yourself. Extremely glad we decided to do that and also extremely glad to be back with young James. So much has happened since we were last together. To think we had originally planned to keep the same pairs for the entirely of the trip…crazy.

Wonderful and long day of Point Lake paddling, clocking in 39 miles and travelling through just about every kind of weather imaginable. Still and balmy early morning, which turned to cold and mildly windy later morning, which turned to warm and sunny lunchtime and early afternoon conditions caught a light spray of rain, then in the late afternoon overcast and the winds picked up substantially.

Paddling through the tundra is surreal. At times it feels like an ancient environment, I half expect to see a wooly mammoth or a saber-tooth tiger. Endless rocks, moss, shrubs and groupings of intermittent dwarf pines. This lake particularly has many more trees than I expected, all of them behind a cliff or tall ridge protecting them from the elements. The signs of the long winter are written all over the landscape. It is a place that seems to respond to the notion of human inhabitation with a confident smirk, followed by: “You may try.” Exquisite Beauty: Profound Indifference.

“Boys are hungry”


P.S. Boys are hungry.

Day 93

August 9, 2019

Today we were wind-bound all day and it sucked a lot. Morale was not low, but the immobility took its toll. Boys seem to get more easily frustrated when our progress is stunted. It is not necessarily a case of cabin fever, more so the internal struggle one must endure as they surrender to the elements. The land is changing, the tundra; the barrens; the ceaseless expanse of moss, bushes, rocks, scattered trees, and water. It holds all the cards and carries no remorse or sympathy. We are powerless, thus we must wait.

Paul woke everyone up around 7:00 AM. Rain and wind that had lasted all night kept on strongly through the morning. Granola and coffee for breakfast. We hunkered down and ate in our bug shelter with the mesh door wide open since there were no bugs, not with this wind. I like to imagine all the black flies and mosquitos were either dying or pining over the fact that they could not reach us. It was a cold and wet morning but laughter still filled the air as we discussed a hypothetical plan of wintering over at Fort Enterprise: who would we use our satellite phone minutes to call in regards to log cabin building instructions? The overwhelming response was Timmy Heinle, the only man any of us know who builds log cabins. Ultimately we all agreed that we most likely would not survive a winter at this latitude and would undoubtedly be rescued before that ever became a reality.

After morning chow, everyone went back to their tents to read and/or nap while the wind howled and sporadic sheets of rain painted themselves across our bright orange neon tents. It is hard to imagine a better tent for these weather conditions. For all the bitching we did about the tent being too hot and not bug conducive, we are lucky to have them, now and back at Lake Winnipeg.

We are marooned on the south shore of Singing Lake, east of the stream that flows into Greenstockings Lake. If not for the relentless wind and rain, this would be a delightful place to spend a layover day. The tundra is truly exceptional, simply due to it vastness and desolation. The one word I could use to describe it is “unforgiving.” A place where creatures must survive not inhabit. When traveling through as we are, it becomes clear this is not an environment to hang your hat nor linger a while. The impending darkness and silence of winter is imminent.

Around 11:00 AM I got out of the tent, organized miscellaneous items in the bug shelter, read, boiled a large pot of water for coffee, prepared lunch (with great difficulty on account of compacted tortillas,) and stared into the expanse. Hoping to see any kind of wildlife I saw only birds struggling mightily, practically hanging on a string in their attempt to fly head-on into the wind.

PB&J and coffee for lunch, followed by afternoon activities of cards (500), reading, conversation, and inner turmoil. We have come so far and the end is almost within reach yet we cannot move forward. Devastation.

Zach made teriyaki rice soup for dinner, which was wonderful. We sat in the shelter and chatted about careers and life for a while. We questioned the weather and our sentiments toward movement tomorrow. Everyone is anxious to move but we have the provisions and the time (so we hope) to make the conservative choice. We can afford to stay here another day if the winds do not subside. If that is the case, we are in for the longest and most anxious day yet…cabin fever will likely emerge. Sentiments will change.

Cooke Custom Sewing Lean 3

Already I can tell I am getting a bit stir-crazy because I am writing predictions in the trip journal. We are so close. All has led to this chapter of our journey. The brutality of our stationary position is comical. Tomorrow we will give a tobacco offering. I very much hope I choose the right words and the Great Spirit hears us. Sunshine, warmth and kind winds. Boys are trying to make some moves.


P.S. Do not go gently into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

This afternoon, Zach had the idea for us all to read from his poetry book. It was an extremely enjoyable experience

Day 87

August 3rd, 2019

Today we woke up at 5:00 am. We had decided the day before that we should utilize the abundance of light that lasts long into the evening; also more importantly, the boys were very tired. Todays was going to be a hard day. We had 9 lakes to get through, connected by a series of portages.

Everyone was in good spirits at breakfast. Paul made oatmeal and coffee, per usual, the mood was goofy, the sun was shining and laughter filled the air. In times of suffering and hardship or when anticipating a challenge, humor is the most powerful remedy known to man.

We set out around 6:30am, paddling for five or ten minutes up to the start of Icy Portage. We had scouted it the day before ad wasted no time upon arrival. Packs we loaded and the boats thrown up quickly, all of us eager to get the first and longest portage out of the way. We started along the edge of the ice and boulder field, stomping our way in, just below a ridge, then went back for the second load of gear. The bugs were plentiful, yet so were the blueberries. Some opted to take the more direct route over the boulder field on their second trip. Upon regrouping we all loaded up again and went over the ridge on a route Paul and Zach discovered the day before, ending in a long open swamp. Here we stopped again, roughly halfway through the portage. Zach pressed on with a pack to solidify the route while the rest of us went back for our second loads. From there things turned into somewhat of a shit-show. Boats were paddled through a small stretch of foot deep water in the swamp. Bram and I struggled to pick up the trail we had just made. Zach found fresh bear scat, which spooked him a little being by himself. The trail around the swamp was uneven but open. Dudes were kind of all over the place. Once out of the open swamp we re-calibrated on some bedrock; there Zach took a few of us through the thicker swampy bog to the pothole at the end. Gear was all over the place because not everyone took the same route. Tempers started to flare a bit, boys were dehydrated, stuff was scattered, but the blueberries were quite delicious. We eventually made it to the end with all of our gear nonetheless. It was the hardest portage of the trip aside from the Methye.

Icy Portage face

During that whole episode the sun disappeared behind some clouds and the wind picked up. We stopped for nuts/pemmican, all of us laughing about what had just transpired. All of us quite relieved as well.

The rest of the day we paddled through small unnamed lakes and crushed portages. Some wee short, some were long, somer were uphill, some were flat, some had boulder fields, some had spongey moss. The efficiency with which we moved would likely impress any military commander. We are a well-oiled machine. Everyone helps, no one complains. The mission is simple and each man knows what must be done. I am tremendously proud to be a part of such a great group of people. We have come so far together, spent so much time together, and been through so much together. There was a moment when I nearly cried just thinking about how well we were doing and all that we had already accomplished and where we were going. It was a profound feeling of joy, gratitude, love, determination, praise, and pride. I will never travel with a greater group or a greater purpose as long as I live. There is not a shred of doubt in my mind about that.

Around 3:30pm the winds picked up and storm clouds appeared on the horizon. We had two portages left, but most people were pretty pooped, and we felt good about where we stood. As far as this leg goes we are moving much faster than anticipated and for the trip as a whole we are way ahead of schedule. Utilizing daylight doesn’t mean a thing when the boys are tired. We been putting in work. Tomorrow is another day and we all look forward to crushing it just like the last one, and the one before that.

Found an amazing campsite on a beautiful unnamed lake in the middle of nowhere. Absolutely gorgeous. Ax made his specialty dinner of chili mac with hard salami… it was delectable. Everyone did some much needed bathing, then we hit the bag. It was a great night for the bag at the tail end of an excellent day.

I am beginning to encounter daily feelings of anxiety and fear regarding the end of the trip. I am excited yet also sad. I miss my girlfriend more than anything and want to see here, however, if not for her I would not at all wish to return home. It is hard to break a habit, and we are most certainly stuck in a way. I know I’ll be alright and the trip must end. Winter is coming, the real world is waiting, yet I cannot not quell these feelings of remorse. Out here, right now, I am living. I do not ever want to stop living like this… it is pure, free, and true.


Day 75

July 21st, 2019

Authors Note:  There seems to be a pattern developing here…please believe that it is not intentional neglect.  It is simply too darn hot to write in the tent in the evening. Once I finally lay down, 20 minutes of thermo-regulation is necessary, demanded even.  I shall adopt the “Write Anywhere BUT the Tent” method; we’ll see how long this lasts.

Today we arose at 3:30 AM.  Horseflies went to bed, but the mosquitos were waiting for us.  Not awful, but enough to do a quick stretch on the river before our floating breakfast which was a delicious batch of oatmeal and coffee.  The haze from the fires north and south of us sets an ominous tone, especially this morning as a red sun rose behind a curtain of clouds and smoke.  As it steadily ascended above the tree line, it began to burst with blinding orange illumination – a gentle reminder of its power.

Hazy Sun

Needless to say, it was another hot day.  Horseflies showed up a bit later, around 9:00 AM, and never revealed the multitude of the day before.  The Slave River can be summarized by: dark water, sparse campsites, heat, and horseflies – the worst horseflies I have ever seen or imagined.

For lunch we had our last bit of salami with parm cheese and tortillas.  I’m always sad to see the lunchmeat go – PB&J from here on out. We pressed on into the afternoon heat with Great Slave Lake on our minds.  Although it is nice to flow downstream, the group needed a change, and clean water. We rounded the last bend of the river around 3:45 PM everyone perked up and paddled harder with the lake in sight.

Massive lakes like Great Slave and Winnipeg are both beautiful and intimidating.  They hold the ability to awe a person coupled with the power to frighten.

At the mouth of the river we surpassed 2,000 miles. It was a special moment and truly signified the blessing of Great Slave Lake.

Thai noodles for dinner were excellent.  There was a minor dispute during set-up regarding tent sites and their proximity to the shade, not only where the shade is at that moment in time, but also where the shade is going to be as the earth rotates around the sun.  It was a hot night, per usual…nevertheless, a great day.


Day 69

July 16th, 2019

The Hot & Thirsty Crisis

Authors Note:  Please see previous Authors Note (Day 63).

Day 69 was an absolute scorcher!  It was quite possibly the hottest day on record for The Source Runs North boys.  

Hot and Thirsty

We woke up late, around 4:45 AM, at the park by the beach in Fort Chip (Chipewyan).  Oatmeal and coffee were for breakfast with clear skies and Lake Athabasca in the foreground.  We paddled on the lake for a bit until getting on Rivière des Roches, the River of Rocks, aptly named for the beautiful formations that line the shore.  It was pretty dirty, but a vast improvement from the Athabasca River. Tops were popped around 8:00 AM, a sure sign we were in for a long, hot day of paddling.  

We stopped in the shade around 9:00 AM for nuts and pemmican.  I have started donating my morning pemmican to the dinner pot. This allows me to fully enjoy my trail mix and beef up suppertime…James really needs the calories  ;-). We paddled for another hour and a half in the sweltering heat then pulled off for lunch. Several people bathed and we enjoyed summer sausage with parm cheese in tortillas.

We continued on Rivière des Roches after lunch, quickly making our way to the Slave River.  The Slave is a massive river with a strong current. The water is not moving nearly as fast as the flooded Athabasca but it is much less dirty and much prettier.  Not to mention, it offers an abundance of potential campsites.

At this point, we had paddled over 30 miles in blistering heat; the boys were hot and thirsty.  Although the Slave River is cleaner than the Athabasca, it is still dirty. It has the look of iced coffee with two creams:  Mud Brown. The water tastes like dirt. Unfortunately we only have one water filter at this point. Six exhausted, thirsty boys and one water filter.

We made camp at someone’s cabin, unattended at the time.  Kitchen on the rocks totally exposed. Mac and sausage for dinner.  Bram snipped the water filter line in order to speed up the process and give us the ability to use the filter in the boats.  I could not write this entry last night because I was too hot. Upon entering the tent, I laid down in my boxers, sweating, envisioning icebergs and waterfalls.  It took 20 minutes to thermo-regulate and meditate into a state of comfort-ability. When I promptly fell asleep.


Day 63

July 10th, 2019

Author’s note – These events all took place yesterday.  Please do not hold this against me. Thank you for your cooperation.

Today we arose at 7:00 AM…simply this fact alone I knew it was going to be a splendid 24 hours.  We all congregated at a table in the dining room of Chez Dube (our Bed & Breakfast) where Karchara (the proprietor) cooked us bacon, eggs and strawberry banana yogurt pancakes accompanied by coffee, apple and orange juice.  The meal was absolutely sensational. Sitting at a table all together with Steve Heinle and enjoying a home cooked breakfast was therapeutic in a way; it felt like a vacation or something one might have feelings of guilt about since it is just so darn wonderful.

For the remainder of the morning we unloaded Zach’s car and handled all things resupply in Karchara’s garage. We packed food, made cuts on food and gear, replenished spices, oils, lotion, sanitizers, repaired packs and boats, put together boxes of gear and clothing for Steve to take back, but most importantly, we healed.

We went to A&W with Steve for lunch.  The boys smashed many a burger and countless liters of root beer.  Also, the poutine was on point; definitely should be more of a thing in the states.

After cultivating, Steve drove us back where we said our goodbyes.  Very quick turnaround but we were able to spend some quality time with a high quality human being.  Truly outstanding what he did for us and we are forever indebted to him.

Breakfast with Steve

Lazy afternoon of naps, laundry, calling loved ones and heavy amounts of candy consumption.  We sat back down at the table for a fried rice, chow mein, sesame chicken and dumpling – SMASH.  It was epic. I am running out of words to describe food/eating. After dinner, one room watched Inception while the other Dances with Wolves. Two very different but remarkable films.  

Glorious day in lovely Fort McMurray, Alberta.


Day 45

June 22nd, 2019

Today we awoke at 3:30 AM.  Oatmeal and coffee for breakfast – Today Axel and Zach learned that they do not need to chew oatmeal…a revelation that should speed up morning meal time and thus help us break camp more quickly.

Pretty lousy morning, it was cloudy with rain on and off for most of the day.  We stopped just before Silent Rapids to leave a note for the seniors, then attained some rapids, did a bit of portaging and PB&J for lunch.  We made camp right after lunch at a fishing spot on Sandfly Lake. Great tent sites but some fishermen are dirty as hell and have no concept of other people or conserving the environment.

We switched boats; which is awesome and humorous.  It’s kind of like a divorce and then a new marriage.  Axel and I said our goodbyes with minimal hostilities and now I am with Bram, who I think, will treat me better and appreciate me more 😉

We emptied sea liner bags, took inventory and transferred weight.  Rain picked up so we set up tents and took afternoon naps. It was lovely but I was very groggy for dinner.  We went right back to the tent after Thai noodles which Zach cooked…he did a great job, considering it was the second time he has cooked in 45 days.

I was half asleep when James told me I had to write in this journal! Perhaps he is mad because I keep commenting on how thin he looks.  We’ve all lost weight but young James is especially gaunt. One does not need to be a doctor to know that boy is in desperate need of a cheeseburger.  I intend to buy him 5 McDoubles from Donnies in Fort Mac. I’m afraid that one strong wind might blow him away before we get there though.

Apologize for my handwriting.  No surface, half asleep, holding pen too tight and my handwriting stinks anyway.  New pace is dope. Morale is high. Boys are hungry, planning to eat more provisions to cut weight for Methey.  It was nice to have a day where the sun was not devastating us. I don’t like all this wetness, but you cant have your cake and eat it too!

Canoeing is fun with your friends!


Day 39

June 16th, 2019

This morning we rose at 4:00 AM, a little later than “usual” since we had traveled farther/longer than expected the day before.  We had a nice campsite on a small island on Lindstrom Lake. The primary reason it was nice can be attributed to the lack of bugs.  Outstanding wash by the dragonflies. Granola with PB for breakfast and the always pleasant coffee. Safe to say without coffee and caffeine pills I would not have made it this far.  We pushed off at 5:30ish paddling north through some islands on the lake and then beaver streams (thankfully with no dams) until we hit Froy Portage.  

Frog Portage is a voyager trade route portage and marks the change in watersheds.  We are no longer on the Sturgeon-Weir but now on the Churchill River! The portage holds great historical significance…wish I could say more on the matter, but I am not a doctor.  It was, however outfitted with a trolley that although looked super sketchy, turned out to be operable and neat. We loaded all our gear on the trolley and pushed it, uphill at times, over old busted boards lined with metal bearings.  There were numerous moments when I thought the whole damn thing was going down, likely taking someone with it…thankfully that did not happen and we made it all the way to the end. The boats were much wider than the trolley but it was worth it just for the memory.  Out of Frog Portage we came to Trade Lake, which was glassy and beautiful. We stopped for morning nuts/pemmican and the welcome addition of dehydrated cherries.  

We continued on toward Grand Rapids where we struggled for an hour to find the portage trail.  If that wasn’t enough, the portage was half mile long with a few treacherous deadfalls and steep inclines to start.  We ate hot salami with parm at the end of the trail. Last day of salami for lunch…it was wonderful…and fine.

We pressed on, everyone was tired and it was a very hot afternoon.  Caffeine pills were popped and water chugged. Pulled over a ledge, attained some rapids, crushed one more portage then found ourselves on Key Lake.  Bourbon Street for afternoon nuts. Paddled til 5:00ish – most people were spent.  

It took a little while to find a campsite but we came across a small tight one loaded with cushy moose moss.  Thai noodles for dinner. Most people bathed, discussed etiquette and possibly implementing a rule regarding the acquisitions of tent sites.  Chocolate and Cheerios is now a thing. People are tired and dehydration makes us cranky. Long days. Morale is high. Plans for Fort Mac on the 9th of July. It stays bright very long now…